Sunday, Aug 11, 2002
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By Amit Baruah
While the course of India-Pakistan relations remains unpredictable at the best of times, the involvement of the international community (the U.S., Britain and the European Union) in bilateral issues seems to suggest that the snapped dialogue may well resume before the year is out.
There is a clear sense in diplomatic circles that the international community cannot simply intervene when crises break out in the sub-continent, but remain involved in encouraging a solution to Jammu and Kashmir and other issues between India and Pakistan.
A clear indication to this effect was given by the visiting U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, when he categorically stated both in New Delhi and in Islamabad that Kashmir was on the international agenda.
Gen. Powell's message was clear: that the U.S. is keen on finding a solution to the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan and none can doubt that in his view Kashmir is the most prominent.
In the coming weeks and months, the international community is prepared to mount pressure on both India and Pakistan to start talks and believes that it is high time the root causes which could trigger a future crisis were removed.
As India has been successful in lobbying the international community to pressure Pakistan and its President, Pervez Musharraf, to putting an end to infiltration, New Delhi will have to deal with pressures of its own.
There is little doubt that the mobilisation of troops by India forced the international community to act. Also, the West could not be seen displaying its double standards on the issue of terrorism by targeting what was happening in Afghanistan but not in Kashmir.
The Indian policy, however, has opened the door to a deeper and broader involvement of the Americans and their allies on Kashmir and other issues. Even in official circles there is an admission that the U.S. is, ipso facto, mediating between India and Pakistan.
There appears to be a new seriousness and determination on the part of these countries to encourage a permanent solution to the Kashmir issue which has bedevilled relations between the two countries.
For the record, however, it needs to be said that even if the Kashmir issue is resolved (and it's a very big if) improved relations between India and Pakistan are not a certainty.
There is a big gap between India's traditional, stated position on Kashmir that it is a bilateral issue and the current engagement with the international community.
This is creating problems for the Government in Parliament and even the BJP had spoken out against the statement. A day after the Powell visit the BJP said the U.S. Secretary of State calling for observers to monitor the Kashmir polls amounted to interference in India's international affairs.
How the Government deals with this contradiction remains to be seen. Even as the U.S. has spoken out in favour of credible elections in Kashmir, its "verdict'' on the issue must be awaited until after the polls.
Clearly, if India is to be pressured into dialogue with Pakistan by the international community once again, an end-game scenario must be first conceptualised by New Delhi.
If there is agreement on this end-game and it does not compromise India's national interests, then the international community may well bring pressure to bear on Pakistan as has been promised.
However, a conducive climate for discussions between India and Pakistan cannot be "dictated'' by the international community there must be a significant constituency for peace and dialogue within both India and Pakistan. So far, there is no indication of such a thing happening.
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